Book Talks

Book Talks 2021-2022

Book Talks are designed to give UM faculty with a humanities focus an opportunity to share their recently published books with the community.  Faculty generally present on their research and take questions from the audience.   

Under normal circumstances, Book Talks take place at Books & Books: 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Book Talks will take place online.  The link to join each Book Talk webinar will be posted below as they become available.  


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  • September: Hugh Thomas


    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 at 8pm

    Hugh Thomas

    Professor, History
    University of Miami

    Power and Pleasure: Court Life Under King John, 1119-1216

     Although King John is remembered for his political and military failures, he also resided over a magnificent court. Power and Pleasure reconstructs life at the court of King John and explores how his court produced both pleasure and soft power.

    Much work exists on courts of the late medieval and early modern periods, but the jump in record keeping under John allows a detailed reconstruction of court life for an earlier period. Power and Pleasure: Court Life under King John, 1199-1216 examines the many facets of John's court, exploring hunting, feasting, castles, landscapes, material luxury, chivalry, sexual coercion, and religious activities. It explains how John mishandled his use of soft power, just as he failed to exploit his financial and military advantages, and why he received so little political benefit from his magnificent court. John's court is viewed in comparison to other courts of the time, and in previous and subsequent centuries.


    Hugh Thomas received his B.A. from Yale University in 1982 and stayed on there for his Ph.D., which he received in 1988. He specializes in the history of Medieval Europe and of England. His first book, Vassals, Crusaders, Heiresses, and Thugs: The Gentry of Angevin Yorkshire, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1993, and his second, The English and the Normans: Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation and Identity after the Norman Conquest, 1066-c. 1220, by Oxford University Press in 2003. His third book, The Norman Conquest: England after William the Conqueror appeared in 2008, and is a textbook on the Norman Conquest and its impact. A fourth book, on the clergy in twelfth-century England, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.  He has also published a number of articles in various journals, including the English Historical Review, and is now working on a book on the social and cultural history of the court of King John, 1199-1216. He has received research fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, the National Humanities Center, Oxford University, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University. He has also received funding from the ACLS and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In fall, 2017 he had a Fulbright in the UK, where he was a visiting professor at King’s College, London. He has given numerous papers throughout the U.S. and abroad. Besides a variety of courses on the Middle Ages, Thomas teaches Western Civilization and a course on Religious War and Tolerance in the Western Religious Traditions.‌ Since fall, 2018, he has been director of The Center for the Humanities at UM.


    View Recording Here!

  • October: Robyn Walsh and Allison Schifani

    Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Robyn Walsh

    Associate Professor, Religious Studies
    University of Miami 

    The Origins of Early Christian Literature: Contextualizing the New Testament within Greco-Roman Literary Culture

    Conventional approaches to the Synoptic gospels argue that the gospel authors acted as literate spokespersons for their religious communities. Whether described as documenting intragroup “oral traditions” or preserving the collective perspectives of their fellow Christ-followers, these writers are treated as something akin to the Romantic Poets speaking for their Volk – a questionable framework inherited from nineteenth-century German Romanticism. In this book, Robyn Faith Walsh argues that the Synoptic gospels were written by elite cultural producers working within a dynamic cadre of literate specialists, including persons who may or may not have been professed Christians. Comparing a range of ancient literature, her groundbreaking study demonstrates that the gospels are creative works produced by educated elites interested in Judean teachings, practices, and paradoxographical subjects in the aftermath of the Jewish War and in dialogue with the literature of their age. Walsh’s study thus bridges the artificial divide between research on the Synoptic gospels and classics.

    Robyn Faith Walsh is Associate Professor of the New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Miami, Coral Gables. An editor at the Database of Religious History, her articles have appeared in The Classical Quarterly and Jewish Studies Quarterly, among other publications.


    Recording here!


    Wednesday, October 27, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Allison Schifani

    Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures
    University of Miami 

    Urban Ecology and Intervention in the 21st Century Americas: Verticality, Catastrophe, and the Mediated City  

    This book takes a hemispheric approach to contemporary urban intervention, examining urban ecologies, communication technologies, and cultural practices in the twenty-first century. It argues that governmental and social regimes of control and forms of political resistance converge in speculation on disaster and that this convergence has formed a vision of urban environments in the Americas in which forms of play and imaginations of catastrophe intersect in the vertical field.

    Schifani explores a diverse range of resistant urban interventions, imagining the city as on the verge of or enmeshed in catastrophe. She also presents a model of ecocriticism that addresses aesthetic practices and forms of play in the urban environment. Tracing the historical roots of such tactics as well as mapping their hopes for the future will help the reader to locate the impacts of climate change not only on the physical space of the city, but also on the epistemological and aesthetic strategies that cities can help to engender.

    Allison Schifani is Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami. Her research and writing focus on the intersections of the urban, the literary, the technological, and the ecological. Her book Urban Ecology and Intervention and the 21st Century Americas was published by Routledge earlier this year. Her work has also appeared in Media Fields, The Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction and elsewhere.


    Allison Schifani 

    Recording here!


  • November: Lindsay Thomas

    Wednesday, November 10, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Lindsay Thomas

    Assistant Professor, English
    University of Miami 

    Training For Catastrophe:Fictions of National Security after 9/11

    A timely, politically savvy examination of how impossible disasters shape the very real possibilities of our world

    Why would the normally buttoned-down national security state imagine lurid future scenarios like a zombie apocalypse? In Training for Catastrophe, author Lindsay Thomas shows how our security regime reimagines plausibility to focus on unlikely and even unreal events rather than probable ones. With an in-depth focus on preparedness (a pivotal, emergent national security paradigm since 9/11) she explores how fiction shapes national security.

    Thomas finds fiction at work in unexpected settings, from policy documents and workplace training manuals to comics and video games. Through these texts—as well as plenty of science fiction—she examines the philosophy of preparedness, interrogating the roots of why it asks us to treat explicitly fictional events as real. Thomas connects this philosophical underpinning to how preparedness plays out in contemporary politics, emphasizing how it uses aesthetic elements like realism, genre, character, and plot to train people both to regard some disasters as normal and to ignore others.

    Training for Catastrophe makes an important case for how these documents elicit consent and compliance. Thomas draws from a huge archive of texts—including a Centers for Disease Control comic about a zombie apocalypse, the work of Audre Lorde, and the political thrillers of former national security advisor Richard Clarke—to ask difficult questions about the uses and values of fiction. A major statement on how national security intrudes into questions of art and life, Training for Catastrophe is a timely intervention into how we confront disasters.

    Lindsay Thomas is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Miami. She is also a principal investigator for WhatEvery1Says, a large-scale digital humanities project that explores public discourse about the humanities.


    Lindsay Thomas

    Recording here!

  • December: Steve Butterman

    Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Steve Butterman

    Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures
    University of Miami 

    Queering and Querying the Paradise of Paradox: LGBT Language, New Media, and Visual Cultures in Modern-Day Brazil

    This book provides readers with a study of the characteristics that make life unique for sexual minorities in Brazil while also viewing Brazil in relation to global LGBT sociopolitical movements. It critically assesses the complex relationship(s) between the visual arts and political activism, carefully analyzing artistic, cinematic, and photographic representations of LGBTQ identities. Brazil provides a useful case to example, with the cultivation of ambiguity in contemporary (re)constructions of queer life. In this book, the author conducts the first comprehensive discourse analysis of the dynamics and features of the largest LGBT Pride Parade in the world. This problematizes and analyzes the relationship between burgeoning critical socio-political movements and institutions and the language and new media discourses used to configure and conceptualize them. The aim of this project is to create a theoretical scholarly framework promoting linkages between political activism and academic scholarship and by using discourse analysis, the intricacies of terminology Brazilian sexual minorities adopt and adapt, illustrating the development of LGBTQ identities through performative language use.

    Steven F. Butterman is Associate Professor of Portuguese and Director of the Portuguese Language Program at the University of Miami, where he has also directed the Women's and Gender Studies program, served as coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Studies programs and developed the minor in LGBTQ Studies.


    Steve Butterman   

    Recording here!

  • January: Dominique Reill

    Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 8:00 PM

    Dominique Reill

    Associate Professor, History
    University of Miami 

    The Fiume Crisis: Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire

    The Fiume Crisis recasts what we know about the birth of fascism, the rise of nationalism, and the fall of empire after World War I by telling the story of the three-year period when the Adriatic city of Fiume (today Rijeka, in Croatia) generated an international crisis.

    In 1919 the multicultural former Habsburg city was occupied by the paramilitary forces of the flamboyant poet-soldier Gabriele D’Annunzio, who aimed to annex the territory to Italy and became an inspiration to Mussolini. Many local Italians supported the effort, nurturing a standard tale of nationalist fanaticism. However, Dominique Kirchner Reill shows that practical realities, not nationalist ideals, were in the driver’s seat. Support for annexation was largely a result of the daily frustrations of life in a “ghost state” set adrift by the fall of the empire. D’Annunzio’s ideology and proto-fascist charisma notwithstanding, what the people of Fiume wanted was prosperity, which they associated with the autonomy they had enjoyed under Habsburg sovereignty. In these twilight years between the world that was and the world that would be, many across the former empire sought to restore the familiar forms of governance that once supported them. To the extent that they turned to nation-states, it was not out of zeal for nationalist self-determination but in the hope that these states would restore the benefits of cosmopolitan empire.

    Against the too-smooth narrative of postwar nationalism, The Fiume Crisis demonstrates the endurance of the imperial imagination and carves out an essential place for history from below.

    Dominique Kirchner Reill is Associate Professor in Modern European History at the University of Miami and author of the award-winning Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multi-Nationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice.


    Dominique Reill  

    Recording here!

  • February: Nebil Husayn

    Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 8:00 PM

    Nebil Husayn

    Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
    University of Miami 

    Opposing the Imam: The Legacy of the Nawasib in Islamic Literature

    Islam's fourth caliph, Ali, can be considered one of the most revered figures in Islamic history. His nearly universal portrayal in Muslim literature as a pious authority obscures centuries of contestation and the eventual rehabilitation of his character. In this book, Nebil Husayn examines the enduring legacy of the nawasib, early Muslims who disliked Ali and his descendants. The nawasib participated in politics and scholarly discussions on religion at least until the ninth century. However, their virtual disappearance in Muslim societies has led many to ignore their existence and the subtle ways in which their views subsequently affected Islamic historiography and theology. By surveying medieval Muslim literature across multiple genres and traditions including the Sunni, Mu'tazili, and Ibadi, Husayn reconstructs the claims and arguments of the nawasib and illuminates the methods that Sunni scholars employed to gradually rehabilitate the image of Ali from a villainous character to a righteous one.

    Nebil Husayn (PhD) teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Miami. His research explores authoritarianism in the Middle East, debates on the caliphate, and the development of Islamic thought. Husayn also serves as a Senior Research Advisor for Mipsterz, an arts and culture collective curating, enabling, and amplifying artists of marginalized backgrounds through illustration, film, and music. He is the recipient of a Fulbright award and the University of Miami Fellowship in the Arts and Humanities. Husayn obtained his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and an M.A. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He is the author of Opposing the Imam (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which examines the history of early Muslims who were hostile to Islam's fourth caliph, Ali, and his descendants.


    Nebil Husayn

    Recording here!

  • March: Nathaniel Deyo and Kathryn Freeman

    Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 8:00 PM

    Nathaniel Deyo

    Lecturer, English Composition
    University of Miami 

    Film Noir and the Possibilities of Hollywood

    Nathaniel Deyo's book offers close, detailed reading of well-known noirs, taking the full measure of their formal and stylistic achievements above and beyond their enactment of some pre-established understanding of what it means--formally or ideologically--to be a "film noir." The text also considers noir in the popular imaginations, as a fetish object for both online cinephile communities and a point of reference for decidely non-cinephile media objects. Expanding upon and challenging existing academic discourse surrounding noir, the author refuses to "flatten" the films under consideration into a single, homogenous text.



    Nathaniel Deyo is a Lecturer of English Composition and tutors students in the UM Writing Center. Deyo began working at the University of Miami in 2018 after receiving his PhD in English Language and Literature/Letters from the University of Florida.
    University of Miami 

    Nathaniel Deyo

    Recording here!


    Wednesday, March 23, 2022 at 8:00 PM

    Kathryn Freeman

    Professor, English
    University of Miami 

    Rethinking the Romantic Era: Androgynous Subjectivity and the Recreative in the Writings of Mary Robinson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Mary Shelley

    Focusing on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Robinson and Mary Shelley, this book uses key concepts of androgyny, subjectivity and the re-creative as a productive framework to trace the fascinating textual interactions and dialogues among these authors. It crosses the boundary between male and female writers of the Romantic period by linking representations of gender with late Enlightenment upheavals regarding creativity and subjectivity, demonstrating how these interrelated concerns dismantle traditional binaries separating the canonical and the noncanonical; male and female; poetry and prose; good and evil; subject and object.

    Through the convergences among the writings of Coleridge, Mary Robinson, and Mary Shelley, the book argues that each dismantles and reconfigures subjectivity as androgynous and amoral, subverting the centrality of the male gaze associated with canonical Romanticism. In doing so, it examines key works from each author's oeuvre, from Coleridge's “canonical” poems such as Rime of the Ancient Mariner, through Robinson's lyrical poetry and novels such as Walsingham, to Mary Shelley's fiction, including FrankensteinMathilda, and The Last Man.

    Kathryn Freeman is Professor in English at the University of Miami who specializes in the fields of British Romanticism, Orientalism, Blake studies, and women't literature. Freeman received her PhD from Yale in 1990 and is the author of Blake’s Nostos: Fragmentation and Nondualism in The Four Zoas (SUNY 1997); Women Writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1785-1835: Re-Orienting Anglo-India (Ashgate 2014); related articles on Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary; on Phebe Gibbes’ Hartly House, Calcutta; and on the translations of William Jones and Charles Wilkins; and A Guide to William Blake (Routledge 2017). Rethinking the Romantic Era: Androgynous Subjectivity and the Re-creative in the Writings of Mary Robinson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Mary Shelley studies literary influence across gender and generation (Bloomsbury 2021). Her current book project, Nationalism, Gender, and Subjectivity in the Novels of Phebe Gibbes, charts the career of this overlooked writer whose incisive fiction gestures ahead to Wollstonecraft and Austen in its social commentary and subversion of the sentimental novel.


    Kathryn Freeman

    Recording here!

  • April: Guido Ruggiero

    Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 8:00 PM

    Guido Ruggiero

    Professor, History; and Cooper Fellow, College of Arts and Sciences
    University of Miami 

    Location: Lakeside Pavilion, University of Miami Coral Gables Campus, 1280 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146. [See map below]

    In-person: Register here. | Virtual: Register here.

    Love and Sex in the Time of Plague | Recording here.

    For Florentines, the world seemed to be coming to an end. In 1348 the first wave of the Black Death swept across the Italian city, reducing its population from more than 100,000 to less than 40,000. The disease would eventually kill at least half of the population of Europe. Amid the devastation, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron was born. One of the masterpieces of world literature, the Decameron has captivated centuries of readers with its vivid tales of love, loyalty, betrayal, and sex. Despite the death that overwhelmed Florence, Boccaccio’s collection of novelle was, in Guido Ruggiero’s words, a “symphony of life."

    Love and Sex in the Time of Plague guides twenty-first-century readers back to Boccaccio's world to recapture how his work sounded to fourteenth-century ears. Through insightful discussions of the Decameron's cherished stories and deep portraits of Florentine culture, Ruggiero explores love and sexual relations in a society undergoing convulsive change. In the century before the plague arrived, Florence had become one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. With the medieval nobility in decline, a new polity was emerging, driven by Il Popolo--the people, fractious and enterprising. Boccaccio's stories had a special resonance in this age of upheaval, as Florentines sought new notions of truth and virtue to meet both the despair and the possibility of the moment. 


    Guido Ruggiero is Professor of History and Cooper Fellow of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was born in Danbury, Connecticut and grew up in Webster, New York, a small rural town along the old shore line of Lake Ontario. After earning a B.A. with a heavy focus on ancient history and philosophy at the University of Colorado, he went on to UCLA where as a University of California Regent's Intern Fellow he earned an M.A. (1967) and a Ph.D. (1972). As a Regent's Fellow he began his long love affair with Venice and the Venetian Archives in 1970 and has been returning there for his research ever since.  He makes his home in Treviso, Italy, when he is not teaching at UM.


    Exit Pavia Parking garage and turn left. You will continue straight until you reach the Lakeside Village courtyard. In the courtyard you will see signs directing you into the Lakeside Village Pavilion.

  • May: Catherine Judd

    Wednesday, May 4, 2022 at 6:00 PM (updated time) 

    Catherine Judd

    Associate Professor, English
    University of Miami 

    Travel Narratives of the Irish Famine: Politics, Tourism, and Scandal, 1845-1853

    Ireland’s Great Famine generated Western Europe’s most devastating social crisis of the nineteenth century, a crisis that created enormous and transformational upheaval. In Travel Narratives of the Irish Famine: Politics, Tourism, and Scandal, 1845-1853, author Catherine Nealy Judd proposes that a new literary genre emerged from the crucible of the Great Famine, that is, the Irish Famine travelogue. In her keenly argued and thoroughly researched book, Judd contends that previous scrutiny of Famine travel narratives has been overly broad, peripheral, or has tended to group Famine travelogues into an undi erentiated whole. Judd invites us to consider Famine-era travel narratives as comprising a unique subgenre within the larger discursive - eld of travel literature. Here Judd argues that the immensity of the Famine exerted great pressure on the form, topics, themes, and goals of Famine-era travelogues, and for this reason, Famine travel narratives deserve detailed and organized consideration, as well as critical recognition of their status as an unprecedented subgenre. Drawing on an extensive array of underutilized sources, Travel Narratives of the Irish Famine adumbrates the Irish Famine travelogue canon.

    Catherine Nealy Judd is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches and teaches Nineteenth-Century Irish, British, and American historical and literary topics. She earned her MA and PhD degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and is the author of Bedside Seductions: Nursing and the Literary Imagination, 1830-1880, as well as numerous articles and book chapters on such subjects as Henry James and the Civil War and Anthony Trollope’s Famine novel Castle Richmond.


    Catherine Nealy Judd

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